Wednesday, 8 October 2014

MoJ Answers 6

I'm sorry, but it's yet another helping of bullshit from the MoJ.

41. Mentors
Where will you get the necessary calibre and volume of mentors?

What about the overcrowded prisons? It is almost impossible to get the right person in the right place for mentoring?

I want to see far greater use of mentors at the prison gate meeting offenders on their release.  Under our reforms providers managing offenders in the community will be paid for their success at turning lives around.  I expect to see innovative solutions, including increased mentoring and support for offenders. Whilst it will be for CRCs to determine how mentoring is managed I anticipate this will be done through a combination of experienced probation officers, former offenders working with current offenders and the skills to be found in the voluntary sector. 

We are making good progress with our plans for resettlement prisons.  We have seen increases in the prison population over recent months, but have taken a number of steps to ensure there is sufficient capacity.

42. Prison population
There is a tension between the increase in offenders returning to custody which will be the clearly signposted consequence of the new provisions regarding to short prison sentences and breaches and your desire to reduce the overall numbers of those within the prison system. This will impose significant strain upon the entire prison system. Do you recognise this?

The reoffending rate of offenders released from short custodial sentences is currently too high.That means these offenders are already part of the prison population because they commit new offences shortly after release and will often be sentenced to further custody. I want to grip these offenders by supervising them in the community, working on their offending behaviour and stopping them reoffending. I want to use new powers to ensure offenders comply with this work and only as a last resort do we imagine recalling them to custody.   

The proposed design for the system of designated resettlement prisons is robust enough to deal with variations in the prison population. This includes our plans to extend supervision to those serving short sentences.

43. Estates strategy
What incentive is there for the CRCs to co-locate? The expectation that they share rental costs for buildings where rents tend to be high, will drive CRCs to obtain their own estates whilst leaving NPS with greater costs and unused properties. This will also increase the amount of locations partners and service users will need to go to.

We have been clear that the owners of CRCs will need to ensure that their estates strategy is consistent with their objectives to deliver the requirements of the courts and reduce reoffending.  Longer term future arrangements will depend on the operating models of the future CRC owners.  As collaborative working between NPS staff and CRC staff is critical to the successful delivery of services, should CRCs elect to make their own property arrangements they will be required to make accommodation space available to key NPS staff to enable co-location.  It will be for the bidders for the CRCs to demonstrate in their bids how their proposed estate solution will enable them to deliver rehabilitation services in an effective way.  

44. PO role in prisons
I have read the NOMS document on The Probation Role in OMU in Public Sector Prisons (PSP). My understanding is that the plan is for Prison SO/OS grade staff to be supported by a Custody Probation Officer whose role will be ˜Quality Assurance, Advice and Guidance and oversight”.  You have said the transition to this role is 18 months. Do you believe this is workable in London with the low staffing levels in Prison? Would the new Custody P.O be expected to step in if staffing was low and cover OS tasks? Would it be desirable to have the PO retaining OS responsibility for the most dangerous Prisoners?

The implementation of this new model will be managed carefully. A programme of recruitment for permanent Prison Officers is well under way, to ensure all vacancies are filled by March 2015. In addition, NOMS is in the process of recruiting "reserves" – former officers who will support (not replace) the current permanent workforce and supplement new recruits joining through the summer. They will initially work in establishments where we have substantial vacancies. While London prisons are currently carrying a number of vacancies, we are working on the basis that these vacancies will be filled, ensuring sufficient capacity to deliver the Offender Supervision model and develop our staff over time.

The transition to the new custody probation officer role over the course of the next 18 months will help us achieve this, allowing time to make sure we have the right people in post. Probation officers in the new role will not be expected routinely to deliver the work of prison officer offender supervisors. However, the 'oversight' function (of NPS cases) will encompass some joint working between prison officers and probation officers and, in exceptional circumstances the probation officer might undertake some of this work. Responsibility for all Offender Supervision in adult male locals and training prisons will remain with prison officer offender supervisors. The 'oversight' function will allow probation officers to work with the highest-risk offenders, and they will be able to provide greater focus and direction for these cases.

45. Engagement workers
Are there any plans to develop the role of Engagement Workers? If their employment has been beneficial in London LDUs will more of them be recruited nationally?

Are there any plans to recruit Engagement Workers nationally?

Will the newly created role of Engagement Worker be taken up nationally?

How do either of you feel about the active recruitment of ex offenders as Engagement Workers?

I am very clear about the need for new providers to innovate. Engagement Workers are a really positive initiative started by London Probation Trust to use the knowledge of ex-offenders in supporting others to change. There are similar models in other areas of the country. The Engagement Workers have been transferred to the London CRC. It is for the CRC to decide how they build on this model. We have been clear throughout the reforms that we want to see an increased role for mentors, including ex-offenders, within the system.

46. Use of Tier 2/3 providers
With regards to providers, and the issues that the Work Programme encountered with the creaming and parking of tier three providers, how will you ensure that this does not happen?

I believe our published contractual documentation embeds our Market Stewardship principles robustly. These principles will focus on ensuring fair, reasonable and transparent treatment aligned to best industry practice of all those involved in the direct and indirect provision of services.

This includes both the Tier 1 main contracts and an Industry Standard Partnering Agreement (ISPA). This must be used between the Tier 1 providers and the supply chain where the supply chain has completed the registration process.  In addition, providers will be required to gain MoJ/NOMS consent prior to changing any of its material subcontractors once contracts are let.  The competition process requires that all bidders set out how they will apply the Market Stewardship principles in their proposals. Review of these proposals is part of the evaluation of bids.

47. Corporate support staff
What about admin staff? How do you plan to support the ones that are less paid and under valued? When will wages be going up?

The NNC unions (Napo and UNISON) submitted a pay claim to the Probation Association (representing the employers) on 6 May. This claim will be considered by the new employers (NPS and CRCs) and a response made to the unions in due course, after which there will be an opportunity for negotiation. Any pay award will need to comply with government pay policy.

48. SFOs
What will happen when a SFO (Serious Further Offence) occurs due to TR and systems not being in place (and they are not).

Public protection is our priority and while I am determined to have the best possible systems in place to supervise offenders in the community, risk can never be entirely eliminated.  All Serious Further Offences are subject to a full and thorough independent review to see what lessons can be learned for the future.

49. Fining offenders
Will the government put any restrictions on companies charging or fining offenders supervised under their contracts as happens with some of the international bidders?

There are no plans to allow fining of offenders by CRCs. 

50. Pay
The suggested pay rise of 11% is expected in May 2015. Is this still going ahead?

Will staff be getting annual pay rises?

I do not recognise this figure and it does not feature in the trade unions’ pay claim for 2014-15. Existing arrangements with regard to entitlement to an annual pay review will continue. Any pay award will need to comply with government pay policy. 


  1. Ha ha. They're going to have POs quality assuring in prisons. Only trouble is, there aren't enough POs in NPS to do this. So what? They're going to train a load of new POs who will have no experience and send them in to do the job. That will work well!!!

    1. Nothing will work well. It's already a train crash and is going to get worse, a lot worse.

    2. Try this for MoJ flannel: write out your bingo card in advance and then check your predictions:
      From the above
      "I expect"
      "I anticipate"
      "making good progress"
      "Taking steps"
      "I want"
      "In exceptional circumstances"
      "We want"
      "I believe"
      "Publlic Protection is our highest Priority"

      and of course the old chestnut "reoffending rates of short term custody cases is too high"

      ... I thought I had got 100% right, but sadly I also predicted

      "It is hoped that" ... which has featured high in conversations wtih MPs etc. The phrase which rings truest above is "I am determined" Yeah, indeed. Foot on the pedal, teeth bared, looking neither right nor left.

    3. Add to that "there are no plans to allow fining" which is meaningless and does not answer the question.

    4. so there are no plans at the point in time this answer was given,to allow fining......see I'm beginning to understand MOJ speak!
      So I reckon it must be a dead cert !!!!

    5. There is no need for any new PO's to be worried - in our prison there are no prison offender supervisors to quality assure anyway. They are re-deployed on a daily basis due to the fact that there aren't actually enough staff to run the prison! Problem solved!

    6. They've already done that in the field, employed loads of newly qualified staff who are struggling with how to manage a case load full of high risk offenders causing allsorts of problems for NPS, serves them right for shitting on their loyal and experienced staff.

  2. Probation staff are from Earth, the MOJ are from Uranus

  3. Dear MoJ Answermachine - you know exactly what was being referred to when the questioner mentioned the 11% pay rise in 2015; its the MPs pay rise. And, of course, 11% of £60,000 is considerably more than 0% of £25,000. But that doesn't compute, does it?

  4. Off topic but can those going to AGM keep us who cant go up to speed with events? Thanks!

    1. Yes that would be really helpful to those of us who cannot attend. Thank You.

  5. There used to be an seaside experience where you'd sacrifice a shilling, ask the automaton gypsy-in-a-box a question and out would pop an answer, accompanied by cackling laughter.

    Clacton-on-sea is next.

    1. There are lots on You Tube!

      It seems as if there is a museum of them at York, for folks on the way home from Napo at Scarborough with time to spare: -

      I certainly remember as a treat being allowed into the arcade - at Clacton and similar places for half an hour or until my half a crown was spent!


    1. Recently I had a conversation with a man I admire greatly, the former chief inspector of prisons, Lord David Ramsbotham. The phone call was depressing. We both agreed that the prison system is in a worse state now than at any time we have known it. And that is saying something, given he was the author of many scathing inspection reports and once described conditions at Holloway jail as “unspeakable”. I have direct experience of poor jail conditions, having served a lengthy sentence in the 1960s, when many prisons were run by thugs in uniform and a bread and water diet was on the punishment menu.

      I had called Ramsbotham to discuss whether the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would decide not to give the current chief inspector, Nick Hardwick, a second term when his present five-year contract runs out next June.

      A reliable source had told me Chris Grayling, the justice minister, wanted rid of Hardwick following a series of damning inspection reports on prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs), since he was appointed in 2010. Whereas predecessors had often been critical, unusually, every recent inspection by Hardwick was damning.

      My source indicated Hardwick wanted to serve a second term, as did his predecessor, Anne Owers. But a spokesperson for the MoJ says that Hardwick’s tenure expires next June and that “it is simply policy to readvertise the role at the end of the five-year appointment”: no decision has been made. But they did not readvertise Owers’ second contract. So I trust my source more than I do the MoJ, and my belief is that Grayling wants Hardwick out.

      This is not the first time chief inspectors have fallen foul of ministers. The same fate befell Ramsbotham, who held the role from 1995-2001. In his case, the axe was wielded by Jack Straw, who had always spoken up for prison reform, until he became home secretary after the 1997 election. Rambotham’s term was for five years, extendable, by mutual agreement, to up to eight years. But, in the event, Straw telephoned the chief inspector in 2000 and told him an announcement would be made in parliament that day that Ramsbotham was retiring and his post advertised. Not a word about “mutual agreement”.

      So the question is whether Grayling is following Straw’s suit and shooting the messenger. What could have Hardwick done to deserve dismissal? He has told the truth. Ramsbotham describes him as a “fearless reporter of the facts”.

      The prison system is in meltdown and Hardwick tells it as it is. That does not sit comfortably with this government which would have us believe the criminal justice system is doing just fine, thank you.

      Our jails are bursting at the seams. Violence, self-harm and suicide rates are soaring and rehabilitation has not just taken a back seat, it is out of the vehicle. Many prisoners are spending the working day in their cells. Staff and managers are demoralised. Commenting on the crisis, Hardwick said in August that self-inflicted prison deaths were “not acceptable in a civilised country,” and warned if UK ministers wanted the population in British jails to rise, concrete “resources to deal with that rise” must be employed.

      The Prison Governors Association has declared it “impossible for some jails to run a safe decent regime”.

  7. Grayling is such a bully, in getting rid of Nick Hardwick, he is simply shooting the messenger. Whoever gets appointed is really taking a poisoned chalice because we will all be watching them and any sense that they are suppressing the truth will be jumped upon. How third world does it sound to have a Minister of State for Justice who suppresses the truth, manipulates Parliament and the press and oppresses prisoners?

    1. A politburo approach. Grayling is a dangerous man.

    2. Yes - BUT Grayling is Cameron and Clegg's man and has the support of ALL those who have voted for his dangerous ORA 2014 in parliament.

      George Monbiot has written something more reflective about who is really the boss. Meanwhile I wonder if Selous is being bullied by Grayling - we do not know what Selous has been saying to Grayling, might that be why Grayling does not trust him out alone speaking with probation folk, especially union members?

    3. Hardwick dosen't say what Herr Grayling wants to hear.
      Therefore he must be just another left wing activist that needs to be sidelined and silenced!

  8. I'm en route to Scarborough #napo14 agm

  9. They claim for the houses they live in the food they eat the bills they have to pay, their families get the office support jobs they supposedly need in abundance ( remember IDS being investigated because his wife was being paid for putatively no work) whilst they find time to write newspaper columns. Not to mention novels. They need the 11 per cent rise, yet anyone taking VR has been too that they won't be entitled to the anticipated 1 per cent backdated pay settlement because that would be just extortion.

  10. Case passed to me today (DV) with a caveat that the risk must be reviewed within 30 days. After some digging with the Court staff it transpires that the Non Complex PSR was written without waiting for checks coming back from Social Services or the Police. After a somewhat heated 'discussion' with my manager, who was informed that if they thought I was going to do the job of the NPS Court staff then he had another thing coming, I refused to take the case. I know he was on the phone to the NPS manager, Court manager and my ACE. I'm expecting to get pulled into the office tomorrow. Being honest, and I am being honest here, I'm minded to tell them all to fuck off! I'm just not bothered any more and simply sick of having the piss took out of me.

    Cheers Chris, you've just destroyed the moral of another PO.

    1. Or indeed the morale.

      Write in haste, correct at leisure :)

    2. Commiseration - I suggest you consider contacting your Union now and do not get into any serious discussion about it until you have had advice from a representative - there maybe a delay as it is AGM in Scarborough for Napo - members can register on arrival it is not necessary to pre-book, in the unlikely event it is feasible to get away from the immediate situation for a while - A chance to reflect may even help matters.

      I wish Anon at 17:36 well and do not envy her or him.

    3. Andrew, it's not the fact (really) that I mind doing the checks. It's the fact that both the proposal and risk/RSR was completed without doing the checks!! I'm fairly sure that our new overseers will not be happy if this type of thing occurs post sale. I'm a bit pissed off at the mo' and hopefully will have calmed down enough by tomorrow so as to not make to gig an arse of myself in front of my manager. It's just that it's one small thing after this..oh, just do that. Yes they are 5 minute jobs but they have an accumulative impact on my time; with nearly 50 cases, the majority DV, I just don't have that time any longer. If (and again I'm being honest) this gets any worse then the level of oversight I can give will be significantly comprised. I'm not sure if this will be a defence though.

      Speaking to the report author at Court and it appears that he has it much worse, with only two writers at the mo', the other two being on training/leave. I'm not sure that their manager thought things through and it appears that we are now becoming a reactionary rather than a visionary service. It's all really sad.

      I have had a nice bath and have a bottle of wine waiting. Hopefully my day can end better than it began :)

    4. To Anon 17:34 I have posted a number of times about the case allocation and the risk escalation processes - I like many NPS POs, was forced into this role and would never have applied to do this as a job! I have serious concerns, firstly about the very idea of such a ridiculous system and secondly, the IT process which is cumbersome and for which we have not had any training despite requests made to managers.
      I personally am trying so hard not to allocate a case with a future review because I do not know what to do with it when CRC send it back for review. There is an IT process through deluis that must be used but none of my court team colleagues can follow it, it is not clear in the PI, so we are desperately trying not to put future reviews on. It turns out everyone one of us are doing the case allocation/risk review system slightly differently we have had conflicting information from managers.
      They have tried to cobble something together to replace such a simple process that we all used to use pre TR ie discussion with our managers and err, continuity of case management ....
      It is truly shocking
      NPS PO

    5. What bothers me is that staff will keep on just doing this - one extra thing - you know you don't mind - I've given it to you because I know you like this type of case - I know I can rely on you whereas so and so is not so dependable - I can name seniors who said such stuff - right back to 1975 the chief is particularly concerned we get this right - I could go on all night with examples of what is said to us & we say to ourselves - what happens the stress transfers to the staff, they go home, eventually exhausted, their families lose out and, and, and - all the time folks do just that bit extra, the big problems do not get fixed, meanwhile some get promoted, some escape, some keep doing it, some like me eventually break, but when we break, all those little extra things, somehow are forgotten, probably most of all by us, because many of us, go into probation with such passion and a sense of doing something worthwhile we put up with far more than any reasonable person would and putting up with such almost becomes standard practice.

      Am I exaggerating? maybe - I am out of touch I acknowledge - but putting up with inadequate resources for a demanding job is ultimately not good for anyone - especially the public who are potential crime victims.

    6. To anon 18.26 and anon 19.35 I noticed this issue of lack of checks by PSR authors hence problems for CRC staff and the unrealistic time pressures being put on PSR authors were all raised by Napo and GMB at the TRCF meeting at MoJ on 29/9 as it is a national issue and is being pursued furthrr. Under the members section of Napo website (you have to register on the website to access this area)you can read summaries of the TR meetings. This one I mention is covered in BR117-2014 on pg 2. All the best to you both.


  12. I'm still waiting for the RSR to be completed on one of my cases. When I contacted the officer about it she said "she was just helping out by doing some PSR's whilst she was on leave" she forgot to say how much she was being paid.

  13. Is "Market Stewardship" a higher form of "Market Trader"?

    "CRC's! Fresh from the split, only twenty one left. Come on, get yours now while they're fresh. Look, if you buy Merseyside I'll throw in not just Lancs, but Cumbria as well. Beautiful countryside, classy property, rockbottom price just waiting to rise! Tell you what, as its you - you're a good customer - why not have Northumbria as well? It'll offset the urban areas and help show off your assets."

    Repeat for whatever geographical areas you feel might suitably be aggregated and you have "Stewardship" I guess...

  14. After a totally shit day including scary shit, boring shit and bullshit, I'd like to suggest that someone speaks to Conference about the multitude of arseholes that are Involved in enabling TR. This particular arsehole can't make Conference because of care commitments, but there are plenty of other arseholes within & without Conference. Those who came up with the concept of TR; those who have been complicit in enabling TR; those who actively sponsored or promoted TR; those who baled out of attending; those who think napo needs to grow up; those who passively allowed TR in; and those of us (yep, me included - and maybe you too?) who are unintentionally allowing TR to live & breathe by being professional, dedicated, anxious, fearful & committed to our caseload, who are trying to ensure our cases are getting the service we've always believed they need to assist them effect change.

    I have to concede that whilst I am furious with napo, I am equally to blame for giving oxygen to TR through my own efforts on behalf of my caseload. I am trying to work to rule, I am trying not to go the extra mile, I am trying not to collude with processes and procedures that undermine good practice, BUT... I have to acknowledge I'm as much of an arsehole as the next arsehole. I can't afford to walk away (or so I tell myself). So I think the proliferation of arseholes needs to be recognised.

  15. Interesting that Tory HQ have already started to punish Scotland for their impertinence in holding a referendum and awarded the train contract to a Dutch company, regardless of the gold standard performance of the Scottish incumbent.

    1. Also interesting that it's a subsidiary of the Dutch state railway company, so presumably raising the possibility that Scottish rail passengers could be subsidising the fares of those in the Netherlands...

    2. Anon 22:57 Nice sentiment - but it's the Scottish Government responsible for transport in Scotland.

    3. My mistake. Shows that listening to the news isn't always helpful. I wonder what the SNP were thinking? I wonder if their arms were up their backs? Must read a bit more...

    4. 2 NPS POs off with stress in the Vale, SW1 for those wondering where. Their work shared between other POs so adding to their workload and stress. One offender not seen since July and during that time has been to Thailand. CRC Wales taking on 19 new PSOs. Only 4 male and no BME. No extra admin staff, who are pushed to the limits and in Cardiff are now also covering for the 2 security/porters who left a couple of weeks ago.

  16. Off topic, but lets see what shite Michael Spurr or Grayling comes out with about this. Crisis? What crisis?

  17. A prisoner is seriously ill in hospital after a second disturbance within a week at a Kent prison.

    The man was badly injured during an incident involving two inmates at HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey at about 19:15 BST on Wednesday.

    In a statement, the Prison Service said: "Two prisoners are involved and one prisoner is currently receiving hospital treatment."

    On Friday, a prison officer was attacked with a blade at the jail.

    A spokeswoman for South East Coast Ambulance said the injured inmate was in a "serious condition" in hospital.

    She added: "We were called at 19:15 BST yesterday to the prison with report of an adult male who had been seriously injured.

    "The patient was treated by our staff at the scene before being moved to Kings College Hospital in London."

    On Friday, fires were lit at HMP Swaleside and the officer was attacked and injured with a blade on 3 October.

    Ambulance crews treated the officer for an injury to his scalp before taking him to hospital.

    Specialist staff were drafted in to quell the disturbance which continued into the evening as two inmates gained access to metal netting above the cells.

    HMP Swaleside is a category B prison and holds about 1,100 inmates.